The Berks-based Institute for Animal Health (IAH) is a research establishment dedicated to the study of infectious diseases in farm animals.
In 2002 it was decided that the Institute’s two Compton dairies would have to be replaced by a single cutting-edge 550-cow unit for milk production to remain profitable.
Following visits to units in North America and the UK, it was decided to install a 36-point Fullwood rapid-exit herringbone parlour.
1. Cow entry
Cows enter the parlour and are positioned by spacers on the rapid-exit breast rail.
“The rail takes into account differences in individual cow size and, most importantly, ensures the udder is consistently in the ideal position for milking,” says John Baines, Fullwood’s technical director.
“Udder visibility is further improved by the lack of downrails, which also means there is no chance of arms getting trapped when cows kick out – an important benefit in terms of operator safety.”
2. Milking procedure
Once in position, cows are identified by their pedometers.
Cow records then appear on the parlour terminal which is linked with Crystal – Fullwood’s herd management system.
“This enables those milking to view any aspect of an individual’s records, such as last bulling date or calving date, without leaving the parlour,” says Mr Baines.
“In addition to this, the milk and conductivity meters which record milk yields and somatic cell counts also warn the person milking of any deviation from the average over the last seven days.”
The meters themselves, along with all the controls and pulsators, are housed in a cellar beneath the parlour.
There are also remote displays which show all the information relevant to milk recording and sampling, eliminating the need for the milk recorder to ever enter the parlour.
“Because of our research work we often take samples for weeks at a time.
Having the cellar prevents disruption to the milking routine and any possible contamination of the samples,” says farm manager Adam Calvert.
“An added bonus has been the reaction of our milk buyer, delighted to see separation between clean and dirty areas.”
Any cow whose milk has been rejected is milked through a completely separate line.
A cluster with its own pulsator is plugged into the dedicated rejection line, a process that only takes seconds.
3. Cow exit
Once all the cows have finished milking the breast rail lifts up.
As the cows exit, a flush system washes down each standing before the next row enters.
A small step along the front edge of the milking platform to encourages cows exit rapidly.
This keeps them moving once they step forward after milking, ensuring a high cow flow rate.
At the exit there are two segregation gates and an automatic weighing system which is used for trial purposes to record individual cow weights after each milking.
4. Wash system
The standard milk line and the rejected milk line are washed separately.
Each has its own receiver vessel, automatic washer and water source.
“Our milk buyer really appreciates this as they can see that that there is no chance of rejected liquids ever coming into contact with saleable milk,” points out Mr Calvert.
“We can now milk between 160 and 190 cows an hour using two people.
The new facility has enabled us to meet our research requirements as well as producing milk profitably.”